Today in “news from a year ago that we somehow missed”, that will be of interest to fans of classic platform games: Keen Dreams is available on Steam.

Most of the Keen series was published by shareware giants Apogee, later known as 3D Realms. However the developers, id software, had previously released games through Softdisk. After the first Keen trilogy was completed, id still had an outstanding contractual obligation to write a few games for their old publisher.

So, while this was a bit of a chore for iD, they used it as an opportunity to develop technology for the next keen. What resulted was a kind of prototype for Keen 4 and 5. It has the bolder, more cartoony graphics style of those later Keens, along with sloped floors and and some limited adlib card support. However not all the features of Keen 4 are present – there’s no pogo-stick, no background music and Keen can’t climb onto ledges. So Dreams is sometimes referred to as “Keen 3.5”.


It’s the most surreal of the series (it is a dream after all), putting you in a land of giant vegetables. So you’re up against killer broccoli and potato soldiers. Your weapon is different to the other games, instead of a zapper you throw little grenade things that only temporarily stun enemies. I suppose a spinoff like this is the place to goof around a little with gameplay mechanics.

Another other nickname for Dreams used to be “the lost episode”. The main Keen series has been well known to retro gamers, since two installments were given away for free, and Apogee continued continued to make their oldies available to order via mail or online (and they’ve been on Steam for a while now). Dreams however has been hard to find – it came from a small publisher, we hadn’t able to purchase it for years, and it didn’t appear in compilations with the other Keens.

However, it’s now no longer abandonware. What’s more, it’ll only set you back £2.80 on Steam. The blurb on steam says ” This classic DOS game has been updated to run on modern systems, with new Steam achievements and leaderboards”. I’m guessing that means it’s been recompiled for windows, and isn’t just bundled up with Dosbox.

(side note: the wikipedia page for Dreams says this and the later games had Parallax scrolling. This seems wrong to me – parallax is when the background scrolls at a different rate to the foreground. Which I’m pretty sure didn’t happen in any Keen. Or am I remembering wrong?)